Lawmakers on Capitol Hill convened today for the first time since one of their colleagues was critically injured in the deadly Tucson killing spree Saturday.
Speaker John Boehner opened the House this morning, delivering an emotional statement on the resolution honoring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and mourning the lives lost in Tucson.
"Our hearts are broken but our spirit is not," Boehner, R-Ohio, said as he choked through tears. "This is a time for the House to lock arms, in prayer for those fallen and wounded, and in resolve to carry on the dialogue of democracy.
"We may not yet have all the answers, but we already have the answer that matters most: that we are Americans, and we will make it through this. We will have the last word."
Boehner became emotional as he remembered victim Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Giffords' congressional staff whom Boehner called "a public servant of the highest caliber, one of our own."
"Even in our shock, we are composed and determined to fulfill our calling to represent our constituents. This is the great cause for which Gabe gave his life," Boehner said. "And, like us, Gabe swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. At the time of the attack, he was engaged in the most simple and direct of democratic rituals: listening to the people, listening to his neighbors."
Moments later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered her own remarks on the House floor.
"In speaking as one House today, coming together … we offer our thoughts and support, our prayers for the health of our colleague, Gabby -- congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords -- and for all of the injured," Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
"We share the stories of the heroes of the tragedy, and mourn those who have perished. Let their actions and their members be a blessing to our country. We don't know why God saw this to be necessary, but let this be something that we cherish as an opportunity as we mourn the heartbreaking horror of it all.
There was no evidence of heated political rhetoric today as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle praised Giffords and mourned the loss of the constituents who went to a grocery store to see her Saturday, but walked instead into a melee.
Instead, House leaders from both political parties today called on their colleagues to tone down the bitter political discourse and rise above the recent partisan bickering.
"This body has yet to fully register the magnitude of this tragedy," Boehner said. "We know that we gather here without distinction of party. The needs of this institution have always risen above partisanship. And what this institution needs right now is strength; holy and uplifting strength.
"The strength to grieve with the families of the fallen, to pray for the wounded, and to chart a way forward, no matter how painful and difficult it may be."
Said Pelosi: "May this resolution remind us of the urgent need to uphold our democratic values, to treat one another with courtesy and respect, and to act, as congresswoman Giffords has always done and always [will] do, in a manner that reflects the best of American leadership.
"American democracy is founded on our commitment to a contest of ideas, not violence. Political disagreement and dissent must never violate our nation's values, as expressed in the Constitution, of free expression, speech, and peaceful assembly."